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Hoboken City Council votes on water fee increases and public nuisances

Council also handled matters on rent board and new public development

The Hoboken City Council voted on legislation related to water fees and public nuisances. Photo by Mark Koosau.

The Hoboken City Council oversaw a number of legislative items at their meeting on Feb. 2, including ordinances to increase the city’s water fees and designating water discharge from private property as a public nuisance.

They also passed resolutions making recommendations to the mayor over the rent board nominations, and design developments for a new public development project.

Water, water, everywhere

The council voted to adopt two ordinances related to water. One will increase the city’s water fees by about seven percent, and another lists discharging water from private property as a public nuisance.

Water fees will increase from a flat rate of $47.60 for up to 10 cubic feet of water to $50.93. The increase is due to bulk water costs implemented by the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority, from which the city purchases clean drinking water.

The new fees will mean an estimated increase of $14.98 for the average quarterly bill for a family of four starting this March, according to spokesperson Marilyn Baer.

Baer said the Water Utility will launch a rate study with engineering firm CDM Smith, “seeking to stabilize any future consumer rate increases and account for critical water infrastructure investments and potential emergencies.”

The water fee ordinance was adopted 7-2, with Council President Michael Russo and Councilman Michael DeFusco opposed.

The other ordinance declares discharging water from private property into the public right-of-way and onto the street or sidewalk on an ongoing basis as a public nuisance.

Violators of the new rule will be issued a first notice, and if a second violation occurs, a final notice will be issued. If a third violation occurs, the property owner will be given 15 days to cure the defective condition. Failure to comply will result in a penalty of up to $250 per week for each week the violation persists.

A new ordinance adds discharging water onto public right-of-way, sidewalks and street as a public nuisance. Photo by Mark Koosau.

A few council members had brought up concerns over the language and enforcement of the ordinance. Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher questioned what this would mean in instances when it’s necessary such as major storms like Hurricane Ida.

Council Vice President Emily Jabbour, the sponsor of the ordinance, responded by saying that there were changes made at the state level that rendered the city’s officials unable to address these issues. She followed up by saying that they are aware of instances mentioned by Fisher.

Assistant Business Administrator Caleb Stratton further elaborated by saying that the purpose of the ordinance is to remove liability from the city in their municipal right-of-way.

“The purpose of this ordinance is not focused on emergent dewatering or instances where it’s a requirement for people to protect their life or property; kind of the two examples you mentioned before,” he said. “So we’re trying to add a tool to our enforcement efforts, and that’s the purpose of this ordinance.”

Corporation Counsel Brain Aloia said that his office can “certainly” work with the council members to figure out the language, saying that they can write descriptions granting an exemption for specific instances.

He did note that sometimes the rules can be disregarded in case of certain emergencies, but still reiterated that he’s open to work on additional language if needed.

The ordinance was ultimately adopted 7-2, with Fisher and Councilman Ruben Ramos opposed.

Other resolutions and matters

One of the other major items voted on at the meeting was a resolution sponsored by Fisher and Councilwoman Jen Giattino, recommending that Mayor Ravi Bhalla reappoint Cheryl Fallick and Sheila Brennan to the rent control board.

Fallick and Brennan’s absence from the nominations had been a source of contention since the last meeting, with Brennan accusing the mayor of political retaliation after she and Fallick ran unsuccessfully on an opposition slate in last year’s city council elections.

The two called into the meeting to pitch themselves as the most qualified people for the board, with a number of residents also calling in to support them.

The resolution passed 8-0-1, with Councilman Joe Quintero, who won one of the three at-Large city council seats last year, abstaining.

One of the last items voted on was a resolution to award a roughly $1.7 million contract to Nastasi Architects for design development of a modern public works facility and municipal annex at 1501 Adams Street.

The council had initially awarded them a contract to conduct design studies for the project on Dec. 15 last year. The project stems from the city vacating the current public works facility at 256 Observer Highway as part of a deal between them and Ironstate Development on the Monarch Settlement Agreement.

The resolution was discussed in a closed session, which after going back to open session, was approved 7-0-2, with Fisher and Giattino abstaining due to what they said was a lack of information.

As the meeting wrapped up, Russo said that they are working as fast as they can to reopen City Hall for meetings, adding that they are working on technology for hybrid meetings that had been planned for the beginning of this year, but was canceled due to a surge in COVID-19 cases at the time.

Russo said that there will be more details within a week or two, with the goal of reopening City Hall by March.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at mkoosau@hudsonreporter.com or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.

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